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Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


shoestringGardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects speaks to the home crafter in us all. The newest book from Alex Mitchell (author of several titles including The Edible Balcony: Growing Fresh Produce in Small Spaces), Shoestring offers simple gardening tips, plant recommendations, and money-saving shortcuts to achieve popular garden plantings.

My initial expectation was for Shoestring to be laid out somewhat like Pinterest, but in book form. I expected each project to be numbered, and each task to be a simple, one-off guide for a particular gardening craft. Actually, Shoestring is laid out more like a conventional gardening book, with sections dedicated to topics such as initial garden set-up, container gardening, food gardening, and pest control. Although this wasn’t what I was expecting, the format works incredibly well. Not only does Mitchell offer garden projects within a variety of topics, the layout of the book acts as a clear narrative for the beginner gardener. A section of Shoestring even addresses how to achieve particular garden designs—such as a prairie garden or a topiary “garden”—on a budget.

Garden tool “hacks” and high-performing plants are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. Each project in the book is ranked in terms of difficulty, from “simple” to “fairly challenging.” A section titled “Wonderful Willow” covers eight pages and might be my favorite section of the book. Mitchell first addresses what willow to buy for garden tasks and then takes the reader through various projects using this organic, renewable, and affordable resource. Willow can be used to create tepees, arches, and even raised beds. Other sections follow a similar pattern—garden topics are introduced, plants and tools are suggested, and projects are then presented—all with affordability in mind. Photographs accompany the projects, acting as guides for the home garden crafter.

Gardening on a Shoestring offers both beginner and experienced gardeners some creative and affordable tricks and tips. With information about both edible and ornamental gardening, it is a delightful resource and a charming inspiration.


Gardening on a Shoestring: 100 Fun Upcycled Garden Projects by Alex Mitchell. Cool Springs Press, 2016. 160 pages. Softcover. $19.99. ISBN: 9781591866718

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